Indigenous peoples in Cameroon

Among Cameroon’s more than 20 million inhabitants, some communities self-identify as indigenous. These include the hunter-gatherer "Pygmies", the Mbororo pastoralists and the Kirdi mountain communities.

The "Pygmies"

Together the "Pygmies" represent around 0.4% of the total population of Cameroon. They can be further divided into three sub-groups:

  • The Bagyeli or Bakola, estimated at about 24,000 people
  • The Baka, estimated at about 40,000 people
  • The Bedzan, estimated at about 1,500 people

These communities live along the forested borders with Gabon, the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

The Mbororo

The Mbororo living in Cameroon are estimated to number over 1 million people and they make up approx. 12% of the population. The Mbororo live primarily along the borders with Nigeria, Chad and the Central African Republic. Three groups of Mbororo are found in Cameroon:

  • The Wodaabe in the Northern Region of Cameroon
  • The Jafun, who live primarily in the North-West, West, Adamawa and Eastern Regions
  • The Galegi, popularly known as the Aku, who live in the East, Adamawa, West and North-West Regions

The Kirdi

The Kirdi communities live high up in the Mandara Mountain range, in the north of Cameroon. Their precise number is not known.

Legislation Concerning Indigenous Peoples

The Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon uses the word “indigenous”; however, it is not clear to whom it can be applied.

Nevertheless, with the development in international law, civil society and the government are increasingly using the term "indigenous" to refer to the Pygmies, Mbororo and Kirdi.

The country has adopted a Plan for the Development of the “Pygmy” Peoples within the context of its Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.

A Plan for Indigenous and Vulnerable Peoples has also been developed in the context of the oil pipeline carrying Chadian oil to the Cameroonian port of Kribi.

Cameroon voted in favour of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in 2007 but has not ratified ILO Convention 169.

Yearly Update

Download the 2016 yearbook article on indigenous peoples in Cameroon to learn about major developments and events during 2015.